It’s not often that voters get a second bite at the open space apple. But that’s exactly what voters can have if they attend Special Town Meeting on May 6th to save a key gateway landscape of approximately two acres in the Herring River Watershed on the eastern flank of the Island Pond Conservation Lands. Back in 2011, a variation of this landscape appeared at Town Meeting for a proposed conservation purchase of $360,000. By just 16 votes, the article fell short of the two-thirds majority required for passage.
It looked like we had lost the eastern gateway of rustic cart-paths wandering beneath a pine-oak canopy. After expanding the site to nearly three acres, as was her right the landowner (Cynthia Sutphin who owns the Cape Cod Lavender Farm with her husband) secured an Approval Not Required (ANR) plan for three house sites from the Town Planning Board Development could forever change the look, feel, and ecological integrity of the site. In her heart, she didn’t want this, but had to do something.
HCT continued to explore land conservation options with the owner and the Town Real Estate and Open Space Committee. Starting in 1999, the Island Pond Conservation Lands had been assembled year after year, project by project thanks to an enduring HCT-Town partnership. There had to be a way to save this land, too.
Land-saving opportunities start with visions, but only succeed through action. The landowner, HCT and the Town have prepared a proposal for town meeting that, if approved by voters, will end up saving land and costing the town less (in fact $140,000 less) than originally proposed in 2011.
Here’s the deal: The Town’s independent appraisal of the three lots calculated a value of $200,000 each if the lots were sold individually. If sold as a group to one buyer, then the value would be $440,000. So, the Town’s prorated appraised value of two lots is $293,000.
The Town using Community Preservation Act (CPA) open space funds will contribute 75% or $220,000 and HCT will raise the remaining 25% or $73,000 to enable Town purchase of two lots for a total of $293,000 in 2014. The owner intends to donate lot 3 (see map above) to HCT as well as grant a right of first refusal on the owner’s remaining land to the west. To save the gateway landscape, the Town’s net land purchase cost in CPA dollars (which does not compete with other important town budget items like schools, highway, emergency, or other needs) will be $220,000, which is $140,000 less than proposed in 2011.
Like an elusive piece of an open space jigsaw puzzle, this land will connect Town conservation land on the north and east, thereby creating a wildlife corridor of state-designated rare species habitat. Birds of many varieties, including secretive raptors like the screech owl will benefit.
Meanwhile, the existing walking trails that follow cart-paths east-west and north-south through the lots will be insulated against rather than pressured by development. And the land is situated in the Herring River Watershed, a coastal watershed that has already been impaired by too many septic systems. Preserving the land will help reduce the nitrogen impact and therefore future wastewater costs to taxpayers.
Tuesday, May 6th at 8:00 p. m.
Harwich Community Center Gym
Special Town Meeting, Vote YES on Article #4
We have one last chance to save this land. If you have questions, please call Mike Lach at 508-432-3997 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Every vote counts.